Part of three-week Central European tour
Brigham Young University’s International Folk Dance Ensemble captured the hearts of European spectators and award-winning attention from the U.S. ambassador in Hungary last week during its three-week Central European tour.
Teaming-up with Hungary’s national folk dance ensemble for a joint performance, the dancers watched as U.S. Ambassador April Foley took the stage before the performance and presented the BYU ensemble with the Ambassador’s Award for Cultural Diplomacy. The award recognizes them for their efforts in building cultural ties and friendship with other nations through the medium of dance—particularly folk dance.
“This award recognizes those individuals and groups whose outstanding efforts win the respect of their peers and serve the embassy’s goal of deepening mutual understanding between the U.S. and Hungary,” Ambassador Foley said. “Their knowledge of folk dance makes them an exceptional partner for the Hungarian folk dancers and helps connect American and Hungarian audiences through a common language of movement.”
The Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, having just returned from a three-month tour to the United States, was keen to host a joint-performance with the BYU “American” Folk Dance Ensemble in the historic Budapest Heritage House, giving the majority of the performance hour to BYU to present their repertoire of American folk dances to the near-capacity audience.
The BYU students were excited for the opportunity to perform with the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble. “We were the lucky ones because we were able to perform with a world-renowned professional team. I felt like it was not only an awesome opportunity to dance with them, but also a great opportunity to interact with them, to talk with them and to get to know them through a medium we both love,” said David Marriott, a second-year BYU folk dancer.
Already a week into their tour, the BYU folk dance ensemble has been received by U.S. ambassadors in Hungary and Slovakia and interfaced with representatives from the offices for the Ministry of Culture in both nations. They have personally greeting enthusiastic audience members at the close of each performance, including a joint performance with Slovakia’s state-sponsored folk dance ensemble.
Administrators for the tour have taken measures to offer the BYU students the opportunity to act as cultural ambassadors in this year’s folk dance tour, tying-in with the performers, audience members and political dignitaries from each host nation. BYU International Vice President Sandra Rogers is accompanying the ensemble on the tour.
BYU’s International Folk Dance Ensemble has since moved on to the Czech Republic, performing as a feature entertainment in Plzen’s “American Liberation” celebration commemorating the liberation of Plzen by American forces from German military occupation in World War II. Nearly 1,000 spectators gathered into the town-square to catch a glimpse of the hour-long outdoor performance, including some who were present when the town was liberated by Americans in World War II.
The group now has just over two weeks until the close of their tour in Europe, with performances set in Poland, Ukraine and Belarus.
Writer: Benjamin Watson